‘They’re buying six and seven of everything’: Customers flock to stores ahead of storm

Customers stock up on water at Walmart on Seaboard St. in preparatoin for  Tropical Storm Florence, which is expected to make landfall sometime next week.
Customers stock up on water at Walmart on Seaboard St. in preparatoin for Tropical Storm Florence, which is expected to make landfall sometime next week. jbell@thesunnews.com

Water. Generators. Paper products. Plywood.

And more water.

With the latest projected path showing Tropical Storm Florence headed toward the Carolinas, people in Myrtle Beach and surrounding areas began flocking en masse Saturday to grocery and home improvement stores to stock up on supplies for the impending storm.

“Literally, they are filling buggies full of water, shopping carts full of water,” said Ryan Deeck, grocery department manager at the Walmart off Seaboard Street in Myrtle Beach. “They’re coming in and buying water and plates and that’s about all they’re buying.

“They’re buying six and seven of everything.”

Home improvement stores are also reporting increased sales and traffic, as people seek wood, power supplies and more with the possibility of the storm hitting next week.

“Crazy at the Home Depot,” said Gretchen Sankovich, an operations manager at the Murrells Inlet location. “We’re out of generators, out of gas cans, almost out of water. Plywood and [Oriented Strand Board] are flying off the shelves.”

The Lowe’s Home Improvement store located off U.S. 501 in Conway started seeing an increase in business two days ago, Jason Outlaw, a service manager at the store, said. He said Saturday was the busiest he’s seen since the storm’s projections had the Grand Strand at the center, and he said the store is preparing for an even bigger onslaught in the coming days.

“We’re starting to set up for an increase in traffic with those people coming in,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of Internet orders and things like that ordered as well.”

All three store managers said they’ve been in contact with district managers and trucks are being loaded up inland to bring in further supplies.

“I heard last night it started to get a little crazy and today it’s been insane,” Sankovich said.

Deeck said that data was showing that other area Walmarts are also seeing increased sales in light of the storm threat.

“Every store is seeing an about 100 percent increase versus last year [at this time],” he said.

The Food Lion off U.S. 501 near downtown Myrtle Beach has seen just a “slight” increase thus far, according to assistant manager Daniel Hill. Nonetheless, Hill said the store is getting prepared as the expectation is that business will soon pick up.

“We’re usually just trying to be prepared for the excess amount of customers and making sure that we have plenty of stuff on the shelves and making plans to have more than the normal amount of people coming in so we can get every in and out,” he said.

Deeck said the influx of customers is allowing for more work for employees who are available as business started to pick up Friday night and continued to ascend Saturday.

“It wasn’t as bad last night, but you could tell people were starting to watch the news and they were starting to buy stuff,” he said. “But today’s been by far the busiest. It’s been a little crazy. Last night was busy, but today is a whole different ballpark altogether.”

Sankovich said that the spike in business is something they’re used to at Home Depot when there’s even a threat of a storm. She said the only difference she’s noticed so far this year is that people aren’t buying sand as much as usual.

Nonetheless, it’s mostly status quo this time around, Sankovich said.

“We always try to prepare people ahead of time through maybe whole-house generators or that sort of thing,” she said. “But people in this area are used to it, too. Customers are used to it. They go through it every year.

“It would be different if we didn’t have hurricanes every year, but we do.”

David Wetzel: @MYBSports, 843-626-0295

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